The Brendan O'Connor Show on TV, Radio One with all care, pharmacy discovery, a team that's always here to support you at all care, taking care of communities across Ireland.
Now, a bit of a treat for you. Now you will know David Duchovny from our TV show shows, obviously like The X Files and the brilliant Californication. And then movies like Zoolander, Evolution loads more. But what you may not know is that he is also an accomplished musician, a novelist. I'm delighted to welcome him to the show. Now, David Duchovny, good afternoon.
Good afternoon. Thanks for having me. The pleasure's all mine. By the way, where are you? Are you in the states are.
I'm in London, actually. I'm not far from you. OK, you could you could have come in and I know you want to come in, but the restrictions, we wouldn't allow you to come in. So are you working in London?
Yeah, I'm working on a film in London until mid April. I've been here for a couple of months now.
Yeah, OK. Do you want to tell me what it is?
It's it's called The Bubble. It's filmed for Netflix that Judd Apatow has written and is directing, and that's comedy.
OK, hopefully we we hope when you say it's called a bubble, so does it reflect in their pandemic times we're living in?
It does. It's it's about a bunch of well, I'm going to say ridiculous actors trying to make a big franchise type action movie in the midst of a pandemic.
OK, so there's a kind of a there's a kind of a massah kind of thing here. Yeah. You make film in a pandemic about making film and pandemics and how is it making a film in a pandemic?
It's interesting. You know, it's very interesting to, you know, observing the protocols obviously on set, you know, wearing masks as you go through different zones. I mean, everybody's been figuring it out and production companies have been figuring out what's the best way to to to keep not not necessarily everybody safe, because that's almost an impossibility. But to make it so if there is an outbreak, it's kind of contained and they know where. And and to have like pods of of people and people who work.
So there's all these little kind of areas that we go through and go to. And at first it seemed to kind of inhibit spontaneity or kind of just the freedom that you want when you're working. But, you know, ultimately we all kind of acclimate. And what was outrageous becomes normal very quickly.
Yeah, that's kind of frightening thing about it in a way.
Isn't and does it make it easier that the film is set in pandemic times? Because presumably then on screen you want to look like your social distancing in that you're all being really careful anyway?
Well, it's kind of because it is a bubble. The film is pretty much taking place in the bubble that has been created for for the actors, you know, and and so there's not a lot of social distancing, you know, between.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. But it's out there are there are some scenes that show the the weirdness, you know, the kind of futuristic weirdness of of of trying to make a collaborative piece of work in these times when when that's the exact opposite of what people are being told to do in which you want to do to stay safe.
Yeah. And so the book obviously is the other side of your work, which is non collaborative. Listen, OK, I'm going to admit something to you now. So I approach truly like an opening with a bit of trepidation. I thought, oh, God, here we go. Hollywood guy wants to write a novel and somebody indulged him.
And then I started reading it and it's great. And then I looked into you and I realised that you're actually not an actor turned writer.
Literature came first for you, didn't it?
Yes, I'm I'm a writer turned actor. And in fact, when I when I first started auditioning in Los Angeles, I'm just remembering this now. But my agents and manager would say, you know, don't mention that you went to Princeton and Yale because then people will, I don't know, not not so much be intimidated. But what kind of question? You're most like, why is he acting, you know? So now now I get now I get the reverse, which is why is he writing?
But in fact, in fact, it is something my dad was a writer. I I've always wanted. I've always I've always known. And in fact I got into acting thinking I would write plays. That's that was the initial foray for me, was, you know, I was thinking, oh, I want to write plays. But then maybe I should I should know what it means to stand up there and say somebody else's lines. And that's how I kind of got interested in acting.
So to go back to when you were going from auditions initially and everything, you kind of have to act dumb.
Well, no, I mean, it's like I don't know. It is a stereotype that. Ah, you know, but but here, I'll tell you one thing that is true and one thing that I had to personally fight through is that, you know, I had spent a great part of my life up until that point. It's twenty six. Twenty seven when I started acting was really academic. And it's not so much the an instinctual discipline. It's a it's a mental, it's a rigorously mental discipline.
So acting is very much instinctual. You know, you don't want to come into it weighed down by your brain. You want you know, of course you use your brain, certain aspects of it you want you want to be animalistic. You want to be an instinctual reacting thing as well. Yeah. So there was a lot of baggage that I had given myself, you know, that I had I had I had, you know, worked on this one muscle of mine to the exclusion of others.
And so in reality, it was very liberating for me when I started acting. I mean, not just in the sense of working, but in the sense of becoming a more full human being, a more complete human being, and not just kind of a brain. Yeah, yeah.
Leave the big brain at the door when you're on a computer and cacophony. And I know you learnt you weren't just messing around with the kind of anything like in literature, did you? Did I read that you did your thesis on Beckert. Yeah, Larry, I have to tell all of Ireland. Yes, I did. I wrote my my excuse me, my senior thesis as an undergraduate. So that would be at Princeton. I wrote a a a work on Becket's novels.
I wrote on Murphy, Moloi, Malone Dies, The Nameable and what even I don't know if anybody reads what, but I did.
OK, and of course there would be two schools of thought here. One people thinking, oh my God, he must have been such a bleak young fella. And then there will be people who those people who like to say, of course, you know, Becker didn't really bleak. It's actually very funny. Are you one of those people who gets the joke? Yeah.
Oh, God, yes. I still I still try to quote back it up. And, you know, it's it's more it's more if you ever see the plays performed, it's the same with the novels. But if you ever see the plays performed, you're surprised at how funny they are. And actually my my daughter has just had a tattoo done on her. I think it's on her wrist, which is fail again, fail better, which, of course, is a famous Beckett epigram.
So it's a favourite in this country. We have continued we've continued the Irish tradition in our in our well, I'm half Scottish, so I hope you accept me. We absolutely do.
Listen, when anyone does well, we can't wait to claim them. Trust me, you're one of us now. So listen, not much in the way that, you know, I was possibly slightly prejudiced about the book before it was being known as as an actor. And I suppose once again, a very successful commercial actor rather than a kind of, you know, a guy who dabbles in indie films. Does that mean it's harder to be taken seriously as a novelist?
And does it mean, like, people come to your music with baggage as well? They think this is these are hobbies for sure.
I mean, I imagine they do. But my my attitude is always that the work will speak for itself. So, you know, I feel that I'm lucky to have a pulpit to say, hey, you know, here's a book or, hey, here's some music. And, you know, they'll come for whatever reason they come to see or read. And then, you know, then it's then the work has been on. So nobody's nobody's going to stay listening to me.
If they think my music sucks, nobody's going to continue reading if they think the novel sucks. So I just I just I just go, go, go on like that. You know, the double edged sword in that case, I think critically, more than anything else, is where I probably suffer. You know, oddly, it seems that that people constantly try to draw parallels between my work and either my life or my career as an actor, which which to me is just the oddest thing.
I mean, I always when I when I look at somebody's work, say if I look at Beckett's work, I don't bring his biography or his previous work necessarily to bear on that. I just I confront the work on its own. And I think if if you're well known, it becomes a very great temptation to try to kind of look through that lens, if you know what I'm saying.
Yeah, of course, it doesn't look for people like me. We want to kind of try and talk a bit about you as well.
So, you know, you can do you can I mean, I don't have to go, but yeah, I'd be happy to talk about myself, but. But there are no clues in the book. Yeah, ok. OK, well, OK.
I'm just going to bollocked my notes here, you know, because I was obviously using the book to try and con you into I wasn't kid. Anyway, listen, tell us about the book. It is great.
It's kind of in which I again wasn't expecting. It is like a big epic American novel like Bronson. Your main character is kind of a latter day cowboy. And it's it's a big, big sky country in that.
Yeah, yeah. Nothing that I know anything about. I'm a city boy. I was born and born and raised in New York City. So that's all research and faking it and watching the movies when I was a kid as well.
But yeah, it's kind of, you know, I realised sometimes when you do a work, oftentimes, I think when you do work, you realise later what you were doing. You know, again, going back to instinct, it's like, yeah, you just have to trust the impulse and then later on, the brain will catch up. The instinct is always much smarter. And looking back on it, I see I was dealing with a couple of different things.
And one of them is is is before the pandemic, but kind of pandemic and. Fired, in a way, is, you know, this idea of how do I how do I raise my children in a society that seems so dangerous? You know, before the pandemic, for me, it was social media, phones, things like that, that things that I and my old fuddy duddy sense of life think are are inhumane and alienating. So it was like, oh, this guy, he removes his family out of society and raises them basically and biblically alone in the desert.
And that was kind of an interesting equation for me to address. And then the other part is really about faith, you know, because I'm not necessarily a man of faith and I'm always very interested in people that have strong faith. And I believe it's almost like a genetic thing. Like some people are capable and some people are not always been very fascinated by by people that can lean on their faith, but people that can live their lives by it.
So it was really an agnostic talking about a great man of great man, but a man of great faith and a father trying to address not necessarily my own past mistakes, but my my unwillingness to pull my kids out of the world. It's too late now. My kids are 18 and 21 so that they're raised. But but, you know, I had these ideas before. Like, what the hell what what is this world that I'm putting them in?
And then I just have to if you allow me to go on, I'm going to I'm going to go on a bit. Here it is because. You know, I started to think, OK, I'm going, I'm really against telephones and telephones, but, you know, cell phones and the modern world.
And then I realised, you know, this has happened every every step of technology, every every every leap forward, technological, technologically has been met with this kind of fear that it's going to ruin humanity. And you could start with the printing press, you know, and and and making the Bible itself as as a as an object, as a printed object available to to everyone, you know, and that this was this was a terrible thing. And then you go to the novel, which is stories about regular people, middle class and lower class people.
And this was considered an affront to everyone's sense of of what the world should be like. Before that, we had epic poems, poems about kings and queens. And now we have the phone and we're saying the same thing. So I don't know. I think what's going to happen is the world will change and it'll be about it'll be a different world and it'll be one that I don't recognise quite as well.
And I think it's interesting what we're what we're kind of starting to see with with the younger generations than us is that it is actually changing their way of being. It's a kind of an evolution, isn't it, that technology is rewiring their way of relating and their brains and everything. Listen, we should probably explain to people that you talked about faith and you talked about this this guy pulling his kids out of society. It it is this guy, Branson.
He's living kind of off the grid, as we call it. Yes. He has also got really into Mormonism, which initially was a convenience to inherit some land.
But he has become like more and Mormon than the Mormons themselves.
Yes. The interesting thing is that they are two things that might often be we would be jorgy about and tend to think deep, you know, mad people. You clearly are.
I think from the tone of the novel, you kind of admire both of those things.
And I guess you've explained that there, like the Mormonism is really interesting in the sense that you talk about it as being the great American myth, really almost the founding story of America. Yeah.
Yeah. They used the word jorgy there. I'm not sure what you mean. I use the word you said, Georgie, Georgie, I said, Georgie, oh. Yes, my accent, my ears have a bad accent. I couldn't. No, no, no.
It's my fault entirely to cause me, as I'm sure everyone says to me, when you mess up around you, my fault. David Duchovny.
They do. They say my own name. Oh, yes. For me, it was it was the sense of what I found it in the Mormon religion, which is a Christian offshoot, was they were dressing or Joseph Smith was addressing this idea of relatedness or lack of authenticity in the sense of. I'd studied this guy, Harold Bloom, at Yale, and he was really the one that pointed me in this direction of Mormonism as being a founding American myth, just the idea that there were Latter-Day Saints excuse me, that they that the miracles were still happening.
You know, we didn't have to look back centuries to see miracles. Miracles were in America. We were the present day miracles. And it was very American. You know, that whole exceptionalism idea couldn't be further from back. It couldn't be further from a European sensibility. And I don't I'm not saying that this is true or this is legitimate, but as I'm sure everyone in Ireland knows, I don't get sick of is America this kind of sense of exceptionalism, you know, that shining city on a hill maybe?
Yes, we are a great country. Maybe we are doing some great things. Maybe would be. And of course, we've met horrible, horrible mistakes. But this idea of exceptionalism remains. And I was I've always been struck by that, why we as a country have the need to proclaim our exceptionalism, because I thought, yeah, is it it's a country that is built on myth throwing away, isn't it?
And that is the driving force of it.
Yeah. So, well, I mean, you could say Ireland is built on myth too, but they're not they're somehow more tragicomic myths. Right. They're there. Yeah, we have it.
We have a sense of exceptionalism. But I think it's a more it's it's tinged with maybe a bit more an age of self-loathing to it than the American dream.
And this and the other side of the book then, which you have clearly have less admiration for, is that we see, I guess, corporate capitalist culture. Yes. And that's depicted in Mayar, who's an estate agent, and she comes up against this guy.
And you're clearly less admiring of that of that strand of life.
Well, I don't I don't know so much about it, you know, and I'm just trying to see two ways around it. I guess I have some residual anger over people that play with numbers to put put those numbers in their pockets and don't actually create things. They just create wealth usually for themselves. So I have I have something against the non creators. But then again, you know, I give my my villain if there is one Maloof in the book, at the end, he has this what I think is a great monologue where he says, you know, you called me a parasite.
Yes, I am a parasite. But what choice that I have, I had no talent. I had no beauty. I had nothing, you know. And how beautiful is a parasite? All it does is, is eat. You know, it finds a host. It's a genius in a way, and it's monolithic utility.
There was one part of the book where I took a bit of a sharp intake of breath because I thought it was I don't know, would you call it brave or or what? But you talk about my works with a lot of guys and she's reflecting on the meta process, meta moment.
And so it says she now had the power to destroy men's lives with a wave of her hand and a couple of words. She had the nuclear codes. And you say she was somehow had become as a woman, both slave and master to these guys. And you call it a psychosocial overlay overcorrection.
Is that what you think about me, too? Are. My gosh, I again, I don't want to I don't know, I think we're in the midst of it, you know, I don't know if it's an overcorrection. I think we're always we're always kind of in the middle of things. And it's hard to see. And what I was doing in that is trying to cast myself in the mind of an ambitious woman who kind of wants to be one of the guys in a way of she wants to respect that the men are getting.
And she doesn't want necessarily the fear and the the not the judgement, but the the other power that they're kind of projecting on to her.
Yeah. It's tricky stuff, though, for a man to write about these days, isn't it? Of course, it's tricky, but, you know, one has to one has to write about the tricky stuff or else one isn't really writing. It's it's, you know, as as creating a novel. I get to I get to see all my ways around the issues because none of these characters are heroic purely and none of them are villainous purely. So I get to I get to, you know, look at look 360 at things, because I do think it's a broad social novel as well.
So, you know, I guess I tend to, you know, in my solitude, I'll come down on all sides of an argument, you know? And I think that's what that's what a good writer does. A good writer is not a polemicist or a propagandist or a politician. A good writer is a humanist.
I listen, a lot of your fans are texting in a lot of nostalgia for Twin Peaks, explains everything I'm sure does get resurrected, known again. Is there an X Y? Do you think that fits into the world now? Because like, in a way, conspiracy theorists used to be marginalised kind of cranks?
No, they're they're much more part of mainstream, aren't they?
Yeah, it's really a it's a it's an odd turn of events that I remember back when, you know, in the early midst of doing the show, we kind of became aware of of this thing called the Internet through chat rooms devoted to the X Files and things like that. And I remember thinking, oh, this, that this is not going to come to any good. And, you know, obviously, Mulder was, you know, like one of the original conspiracy guys and and, you know, thinking back on that, you know, he's almost an innocent, you know, now that now we're where we're at.
Yeah. Are you always happy to go back and revisit the experience?
Well, I mean, I'm happy to because I think it's such an amazing I always said it's an amazing frame for a show. Kind of an infinite amount of stories can come out of the frame that Chris Carter made. And I think, you know, obviously, as we've just said, the the issues that that we were dealing with, you know, back then sort of as science fiction, you know, the the whole conspiracy business is now more like, you know, run of the mill in the newspaper.
So I think. I think would be really daunting and tricky and therefore kind of wonderful to to see what kind of stories come out of it, but that's really that's really for somebody like Chris, you know, and his writers to figure out if they if they if they thought they had stories to tell, then I suppose they could they could come and talk to us about it.
OK, so that that's that's sounded like a come and get me plea from David Duchovny there and Chris Carter. All right. Listen, David, it was wonderful to talk to you. And the book is called Truly Like Lightning and available now in all good bookshops and online. David Duchovny, thank you.
Thank you. I appreciate it. Text five one five five one.
Brendan O'Connor on TV. Radio one.